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Mar 24, 2014

Bowler Hat Conundrum: KEEP IT or RETURN IT?



Friends, I want a bowler hat so bad!

Actually, I wanted one for my Issey Miyake-inspired photo shoot last week.  I found not one, but TWO in my size at the flea market the very morning of our photo shoot (they rarely turn up there).  One was gorgeous, very vintage, but the inside leather sweatband was completely disintegrated and the lining was coming out.  And the seller still wanted $40.  The other was $85 but wasn't quite the classic bowler shape -- the brim was extra narrow.  Plus, $85?

So I did what most Americans do these days: I checked online.  Now you might think that buying a hat online isn't such a good idea and normally I'm inclined to agree.  But I did see one that looked promising on Amazon, manufactured by a company called Scala, and less than $40 with shipping.   (Derby is the American name for a bowler, btw.)  I already knew my hat size -- usually 7 1/8".

It arrived yesterday and, frankly, I'm on the fence about it.  For one thing, it's made in China.  It's also stiffer than I'd hoped it would be.  But it is a bowler. 







Can this hat style flatter a man with a long, narrow face?

What do you guys think?









Obviously, a bowler looks fabulous when you're dressed like a British banker.  Or John Steed from The Avengers.  Which I rarely am.  But I love the way a bowler looks with more avant-garde styles, especially Japanese-inspired. 









Michael didn't mince words:   

Nobody who looks as much like Stan Laurel as you do should ever wear a bowler hat.





I see his point.

I still want a bowler, but I may go to J.J. Hat Center and try on some better quality ones and see if they're more comfortable, even if I have to pay more.

What do you guys think?

a) Keep it, it's cool (or upgrade to a better one).

b) Return it -- too costumey.

c) Consider a career as a celebrity look-alike.

Would you (or DO you) ever wear a bowler?

Have a great day, everybody!

77 comments:

  1. Made in China? Return! But I love the shape and think it's due for a comeback. 2014's Fedora?. Hold out for the ultimate flea market find.

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  2. The crown is just too tall on this one... look for a vintage piece marked "oval" It's the one I finally found that worked on my narrow face. Spend a little more for a better quality bowler with a good leather sweat band. They look amazing as decor when you are not using it, btw Once you have one, you'll never get rid of it.

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  3. If $40 isn't too much to you then keep it. See if it gets used and if it does, keep an eye out for one that you'd prefer. That Japanese guy is smashing the look and he has a long face. I say, if you want to wear a bowler then by all means wear one! Life is too short and all...

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    Replies
    1. I absolutely agree that life is too short, and we should wear whatever we feel like, whenever we feel like it, as long as it isn't endangering some species or other. However, one also has to accept the fact that one could look like they stepped out of a spaghetti western (his cowboy boots are a nice touch with the hat and the rest of the ensemble) or like a old comic reincarnated. The real question is whose opinion do you care about. Your own, your better half, your mother, the fashion critics at the New York Times, the majority of people on the subway train at any given moment, the photographer from Town and Country magazine. . . and on and on and on.

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    2. My blog readers' -- EXCLUSIVELY. ;)

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    3. You're right Papadesdeux, our forays into self expression are always filtered through our culture and personality. I'm sure very few, if any of us, are true to ourselves. And our "selves" are a product of our culture anyway so it's all a big conundrum! In any case, I recommend to all struggling with self-expression (not that Peter is) this book:
      Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

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  4. I'm with Michael on this one.

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  5. So, I think these are fairly common in Bolivia and another South American country. I wonder if you might get closer to what you want on the ethnic (non China) market. http://s100.photobucket.com/user/cidell/media/2009%20Projects/Hispanic%20Heritage/ead6020c.jpg.html

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    Replies
    1. Peru. Quecha people in Peru wear them, both men and women.

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    2. Yes! Peru. I thought that originally but my google of "Peru and hat" gave me knitted hats so I gave up thinking :-)

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    3. I have a friend who is Quechua. His second language is Spanish, his third is English, he's teaching himself several more European tongues. So, Hebrew, Latin and Greek were no trouble for him in seminary. I have yet to see him in a bowler hat, though.

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  6. Return this one, but get a better quality one! I love the style and think it looks great on you. I also agree with Caroline - wondering if this shape is going to make a comeback. I recently saw a man on the street here in Chicago wearing one (a man our age, with a trench coat and umbrella) and he looked smashing!

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  7. Return this one, and find one with a lower crown, per Richard's advice above. I think you can rock a bowler, but not that particular one.

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    Replies
    1. Yes -- John Steed's sits much lower than Stan Laurel's, I notice.

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  8. Hats will never get 'un-costumey' if not people start wearing them more often. I say KEEP IT! But only if you're going to wear it (or up-gade if that makes you wear it more).

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  9. I am also with Michael on this one.

    Eve

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  10. Stan's has a higher crown and a narrower brim. I don't think you look like twins at all.

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  11. you could audition for a "Fossie Jazz Hands" revue

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  12. What you are missing is that every photo above that looks great has the hat worn lower. Every photo where the hat looks awkward has it worn high on the head. High looks silly, low looks elegant. Splurge and get the one you most love (larger brim so it sits low). It's a great look for you imo.

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  13. I hate bowlers and was all set to say "return!" but you wear it much better than most. So, either keep, or return and get a nicer one?

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  14. If you really love a bowler than get one and go buy the more expensive higher quality hat.

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  15. If you want it for a clown costume, keep it.
    If you want a gentleman's hat, return it and buy a quality hat.

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  16. Love the hat. I use to wear one in my early 20's. It was always a conversation started.

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  17. I love hats. With most anything. But this one? Not so much. 1. Made in China, bah humbug! 2. Crown is wayyyy to tall for your face. I would say you need about 1/4 less height and the 3. brim to be a little curvy in front and back so as to meld into your features rather than stand out so much. And perhaps, since you are not one to wear banker atire that much, 4. a softer color would be wise.

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    Replies
    1. That sounds like a much better option for a bowler, maybe grey?

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  18. I'm with the OP in that the crown is too tall. My dad still has my grandfather's bowler, which he probably had in the 30s/40s. It was refurbed a couple of years ago and looks lovely still. Good quality. The crown of a traditional (British? well, I am!) bowler hat isn't as tall as that. Shallower would be more flattering to you I'm sure. PS, my dad has been known to wear it to a funeral. But he's the kind who can get away with it. He never wears a necktie, always a bow.

    Expressing my continued appreciation for your great blog.
    Pauline

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  19. Yes, it suits you, but it IS too high on your head. Wear the same style lower, and a tough shorter in the crown. Avoid buying from China - you live in New York City! I can't believe there isn't a hatmaker still there somewhere. ~ Kelly

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  20. a) and I agree with Richard W. Biasi and lw (lower crown). Life is short; enjoy yourself. I am frugal too but when something's fun, I go for it.

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  21. If you wear a hat in a "silly" fashion, as Stan Laurel is doing, then yes, you WILL look 'silly", whether or not you resemble Stan Laurel. If you wear a hat like John Steed does, then you will look CHIC. So. Bigger, rolled brim (notice the funny little straight brim of S.L.'s hat compared to John Steed's hat with the bigger, rolled brim..) and lower crown, Peter! No need to give up on wearing a bowler just yet!

    Oh, and I sent out your shirt buttons today! Look for them in about 10 days.That's how long stuff takes to get to me from the States, so I assume the converse is also true!

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  22. screw the haters. i say take some time, go to a haberdasher and buy one that's fitted for you. love it, wear it. i'm with DameMum -- they will never become UN-costumey unless more people wear them. be a bold one on the cutting edge!

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  23. Stan Laurel?! That wasn't very nice, Michael, although I'm sure he meant it with love. I think it's very important that, if you put yourself out there in a bowler hat, it's a really NICE bowler hat, and the import you got doesn't quite fit the bill. Something is off with the shape or the proportions or maybe the materials -- something about it does give off a costume vibe. I say keep looking for a better one.

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  24. I'm a bowler hat-desirer, don't have one, want one, a bit scared - so I understand. I think you can really make this work though - can I point you towards the UK photographer Perou who is tall and thin and a bowler hat revivalist who looks great in them. Here's a link to some images, but there are lots more - http://www.gocitygirl.com/FashionImages/1_MAIN-PICTURE.jpg and http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-EPRpTKbCOtI/UjYThcc-u7I/AAAAAAAAADI/i8bRgrNScvE/s1600/Perou-diary.jpg He often teams them up with suits. I think it's all in attitude and confidence.

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  25. Funnily I bought a bowler hat on eBay not long ago to recreate the spirit of The Avengers in a photoshoot last week! I do have a fairly long face as well and was concerned the hat would make me look like a vicar but tilting it slightly to the right like John Steed did has cleared the issue for me. Wearing the right way helps so my advice is to keep it, you obviously really like it :)

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  26. Keep looking. You'll find the right one.

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  27. Go for the Japanese guy's look, hat to boots. He looks fabulous!

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  28. I have two bowlers (black and brown) and I do wear them, although I have a very different face shape (full and broad). I think that you can wear a bowler, but it should be one that's not quite so high a crown and not too terribly wide. Bowlers were originally meant to be quasi-protective wear, which is why they should be quite hard. Should you be interested, you could really rock a Trilby, a hat I love but will never be able to wear comfortably because it really calls for a narrow face shape.

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  29. Didn't "Boy George" create an image using a bolwler hat?

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  30. The Hatshop on Thompson street in SoHo has such a fun selection and great selection. Yes expensive, but you can have any hat custom made in color and either felt or straw. Such a great after-brunch activity. Take a friend to go try on hats

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  31. Oh Peter. You are so funny. You bought a $40 hat and expected it to be made here?
    I think you look good in a bowler. Go out and buy a better quality hat. Surely there are some hatter's in NYC. Go get yourself fitted and buy something nice for yourself.
    btw. If you make a goofy face you'll look goofy whether you're wearing a hat or not. (I speak from experience.)

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  32. I love it and think it really suits you well!

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  33. My very first thought was "Stan Laurel" ... though I wouldn't have said so if Michael hadn't first :)

    Spud.

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  34. And don't forget "A Clockwork Orange" a film that also has bowlers in it

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  35. Keep it and get a better quality hat - also get fitted for the right size hat - let the hatter fit you properly. I wear hats but not a bowler. My DH wears hats but not a bowler. This actually is a very nice hat on you and Stan did come to mind for just 1 fleeting minute.

    Cynthia

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  36. Oh forgot to say of the pics you provided, the Japanese guy is "smokin" in the hat. I'm just saying..................... he looks good.

    Cynthia

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  37. Bowler hats rock. Keep it until you can find the exact non made in China one you want. Though a bowler should be very stiff. It was originally a style of riding hat.

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  38. JJ Hat Centre, immediately.

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  39. Bowler hats will always be "costumey" in the US (I'm surprised no one brought up Monty Python yet). A more angular hat will suit you much better, anyway. I second the comment made by Richard about a trilby hat. Definitely check it out.

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  40. Return it and find a "shorter" one. This one is too tall for you.

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  41. too tall, too much forehead exposed, and looks off cocked to the side

    runway guy's was shorter, lower, almost at his eyebrows, incognito, can't even tell if his face is long or square,

    very much liked samurai guy's whole look

    your and "brother" Stan's look are cute and funny, good luck finding a more suitable look,
    try on a bunch at a hattery? Milliners? Habedashery?

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  42. Believe it or not, I wore a bowler throughout my childhood. It was my English horseback riding helmet, and I wasn't allowed to ride on the road without it. lol

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  43. For another source of bowler hats look at equestrian hats, in some disciplines they use bowlers (should be wearing safety helmets but let's not go there).
    Here's an example: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Herbert-Johnson-Bond-Street-Bowler-Hat-/121297319780?pt=UK_Vintage_Hats&hash=item1c3de23764 or http://www.eurosportnz.com/shopping/pgm-more_information.php?id=270&=SID
    Whatever you get make sure it fits your headshape.
    And thank you for supplying me a daily smile.

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  44. Yes, try for a nicer bowler and wear it with insouciance! (Also, how about a Spanish riding hat like the one worn by novelist Radcliffe Hall in the famous 'photo taken in the 1920s?)

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  45. Leather hat bands are replaceable, so grab that great vintage one next time!

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  46. It looks like "The Jr. Executive Model" from the Apartment to me... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDkSQowR-0A

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  47. You do not look like Stan Laurel! But I'm not digging the hat. Maybe it's cuz it's just not the quality you're looking for. Or maybe it's just not a style I'm into. Who can say?

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  48. Send it back and let go of the concept completely. It doesn't look comfortable for or on you....

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  49. Actually the guy that said you've got too much forehead showing was right; you will notice that the bowler rides down almost to the eyebrows., even on John Steed, who represented the acme of bowler wearing before Monty Python skits made wearing one into high comedy. You will notice that Stan Laurel is wearing his very high up on his head. You might also recall that "goofy" characters on the Andy Griffith show invariably wore their hats on the backs of their heads to indicate their hayseed status.
    .

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  50. Option A - get another one that fits a bit better and then doff your hat to ladies! I see an elderly gent now and then who does just that and it makes me feel very special - but he does it to all women he meets. Thanks Peter for another amusing post! Anne-Marie

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  51. Thanks for the Emma Peel!!!

    Kindly return the hat, and find precisely the one that suits your taste and sensibility.

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  52. I recommend you this pattern book.
    http://www.kinokuniya.com/us/index.php/fbs003?common_param=9784579114634
    You can easily make cap with flat pattern on this book which includes men's ones
    http://www.i-bft.co.jp/dbook/201374/HTML/index7.html.
    Have a look, Masa

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  53. I think you look adorable - and I bet it would look spiffy worn with a suit (although I will also say that I prefer you in the newsboy cap style).

    But is that the correct size? Should it sit further down?

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  54. If you can afford it, then why not keep it. If it doesn't bother you too much that the hat was made in China, then keep it. But if I were you, I'd buy the original that you found at the flea market for $40 and fix it. I don't think it would be too difficult to mend the hat.

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  55. I think you should channel your inner John Steed.
    Btw you featured in my dream last night.... you were dressed in suit and tie and I undid your tie thinking it would improve the look. Not surprisingly you were furious! Now what does that mean?!!

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  56. From what I know of you (only through your blog posts) you will not be satisfied until you get exactly what you want. So if this bowler doesn't suit you, return it, and wait for the perfect bowler to show up on your doorstep.

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  57. Michael is hilarious. That just made me laugh so hard. I like the hat. Keep it!

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  58. This particular bowler just isn't the right one for you. Find one that's Really Nice. Recheck the one at the flea market, if it's there next time - it might be an wonderful opportunity to personalize with lining of your choice. I mean, the lining and band had to go in once, so it should be able to be revived with new lining and band.

    Remember - it wasn't so long ago that fedora's and newsboy caps were worn only by old men until some young "rebel" rocker or actor started wearing them.

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  59. Keep it…and wear it with pride, you look fab in it. I don't actually see the problem with it, even though I read your post several times to try and understand. It's fun. Life's too short not to wear as many hats as possible.

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  60. a) keep it, my initial reaction was .. are you mad? a bowler??? but having seen you in it, I think it suits you very well, keep it, but ask yourself whether you will wear it much before you go more expensive.

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  61. Return it and buy American.

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  62. Like shoes it's worth spending money on quality. Vintage is great if it really fits. I don't think the hat looks too bad a fit, you do need it to sit lower unless you want the Stan Laurel look. I'd keep it.

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  63. Weeeell, there's nothing wrong with your face (and length of it) including this hat on top of it.
    Pic. 3 and 4 with 'you underneath the hat' even look quite app(le)ealing. Seems to be rather a matter of
    a) mm's how/where to place the hat. Even my simple sun-hat looks odd, when placed either to deep into the face or too far back = try it yourself, please.
    b) 'behave' dearest Peter (no mimicing/comicing around in this 'sophie' hat, mate. The jap. chaps doesn't either and the brit. Gent isn't looking too matching either in 'none-soph.-face', ey?!
    ' Mr. comic' got at least paid fair enough - hence it was worth it ;-) !
    Make an exec.-dec. and hence enjoy the thing a tad longer.
    Btw.: kiss-kiss for your charming answer of "... my blog-readers' - EXCLUSIVELY …" - despite still having to decide between them at times ;-)

    Good luck and seeya, 'old charmer',
    Gerlinde



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  64. If you look at the hat on Stan L,. it's much too small for him. Yours fits you much better. But if you still want a custom fit...go for it! I'm also thinking it won't be long before you DIY a bowler... you just can't help yourself!

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  65. KEEP! That Avengers look is hawwwt!

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